If the App Store has taught us anything, it’s that people love Secrets.
If I gave you a sealed envelope and told you that you were never to open it; I daresay you would grow curious about its contents. Eventually, you might begin to suspect it was some great secret of dangerous or incriminating information that could do me harm if it came out. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most people holding such an envelope would fancy themselves to be in some position of power, believing they wield some unknown control over whomever’s secrets are contained in the envelope. Few would even consider the possibility that the envelope could be empty or contain some benign document. They would want to look, but doing so would break trust with whoever gave them the envelope, and possibly reveal nothing of interest. It’s Schrodinger’s blackmail.
Our government is no different. It is comprised of people with curiosity, pride, and the same urges to find out things in secret. The difference is that when they break the trust we have placed in them, there isn’t much we can do about it. As we’ve seen, all the outcry from the people has led to little or no actual change in policy. When Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel displayed outrage at US phone-tapping, I have little doubt that was simply a display for the public, possibly even one that we requested. She’s a major world leader, and the head of Germany’s government, one of the most active in the Intelligence and Surveillance community. I find it hard to believe she wouldn’t be operating under the assumption that we were spying on her, as we spy on everyone. Even ourselves.
To some degree, we owe a collective apology to all the guys in tin foil hats who have been covering up their laptop webcams for years. The NSA might not be mind-controlling you using your dental fillings, but they apparently know a lot more about us than we thought, or at least, they have the capability of doing so. All in the cause of freedom, right? Only the bad guys have anything to hide.
Analogy time. If I walk in on someone in their underwear, they will almost certainly blush and cover up as I apologize and quickly close the door. Yet, we would have no problem seeing each other in swimwear which reveals just as much, and in some cases more. Why? Logically there is no difference between the two, but it’s about the intention of the garment and the preparedness of the wearer. One set is meant to be seen and the other is not… so our minds place value on one being “acceptable” and the other being “immodest”. It’s a trivial example perhaps, but to me it highlights the absurdity of the Federal government’s argument that only the guilty have anything to hide. Sometimes you want to be seen in a bathing suit, and sometimes you don’t want to be seen in underwear, despite the fact that they’re essentially the same thing.
Sadly, this broken logic can be pervasive and even affect our own thinking. Things that we are used to hiding, we begin to believe are secret or wrong. The idea that we should accept invasion of privacy because only the bad guys have anything to hide is absurd. We have a right to hide, even if we don’t use it. The internet has become our beach and our bedroom, as we openly share massive amounts of information, but selectively keep some things private. We expect there to be a distinction between the two, and we trust the platforms that hold our information to respect the difference between our different types of communication and data.
I don’t like the idea that just because someone has seen me in a bathing suit, it gives them the right to look through my underwear drawer.